A face-first nosedive off the back of the couch onto the laminate floor doesn’t qualify as a life-and-death situation, thankfully, so I squashed the desire to lose my head and instead calmly peeled Emme off the floor.
The most soothing place a toddler can be when hurt and scared is huddled into the nook of her mother’s neck, and that’s where Emme stayed, wailing, as I rocked her and prayed she wasn’t too horribly maimed.
When the pitch of her sobs waned from a tempest to just a gale, I expectantly peeled her off my shoulder. Holding my breath, I did a rapid scan: OK, a little bloody nose, but no missing teeth or gross deformations. Could we possibly have escaped this little mishap with just a little bloody nose?
Of course not! As fate would have it, she woke up the next morning with a bulbous purple nose, which instantaneously gave me a much more insidious form of remorse than the initial guilt from the injury. Her once-cute little button nose was so swollen that I couldn’t tell where it ended and her sweet little baby cheeks began.
The initial shock of this next-day discovery (after mistakenly believing there would be no lasting evidence of my lack of oversight in preventing, or at least cushioning, this fall) wore off quickly: A broken nose isn’t life and death, I reminded myself. “In nearly every case a broken nose will heal on its own,” WebMD assured me. “There’s really not much to do about it, at least until the swelling goes down,” my mom soothed.
Yet I couldn’t get out of the line of fire as guilt shot sharp little arrows into my sternum each time I glanced over and saw adorable Baby Emme smiling away with that giant, discolored snout. As the swelling subsided, I was relieved to see that her nose wasn’t crooked. But there was a bump. A little bump. A bump no-one but her mother would probably notice, unless it was pointed out. But a bump, just the same. Protruding from the side of her cute little nose. Taunting me. Reminding me, with every passing day, as the swelling subsided and the bump remained, that I should have kept this accident from happening.
I took her to our doctor, then went as far as seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist in Montrose, both of whom told me the same thing. It wasn’t an anatomical worry, they explained; just a “cosmetic issue.”
JUST a cosmetic issue?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not about to put my not-even-2-year-old under anesthesia, under the knife and into a nose cast for a little “cosmetic issue.” So what the doctors told me should have come as a relief. And it did – until I looked at my youngest daughter and that pesky protruberance glared back at me, taunting: Your teenage daughter will hate you for ruining her perfect nose!
What a superficial, shallow thing for a mother to think, right? My logical mind tells me I’m insane for even thinking that a little bump on the side of my kid’s nose is a big deal. But I can’t get around the ingrained understanding that girls, as they grow up, go through stages of feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. Perhaps it’s a side effect of maturation, this self-consciousness that smacks girls in the face just as they hit puberty, leaving an impression that often lasts into adulthood. For me, it was my hair. Stringy, the color of a garage mouse, I hated it. So as soon as I could, I was coloring it. Perming it. Putting money and energy into changing this part of me that, ultimately, cannot be changed, but only masked.
So what if Emme’s “thing” is this nose-bump? That she’ll get taunted for it and spend her adolescent nights dreaming of a nose job? And it’s all my fault?
Again, my logical mind tells me that if it isn’t her nose, it will be something else. Logic tells me that adolescent self-consciousness is nothing more than a rite of passage into adulthood, unpleasant but inevitable. It’s just up to me, now, to instill a strong sense of self-love within the souls of my blossoming daughters. To lead by example, accepting my garage-mouse hair instead of convincing myself that the beauty salon is a vital part of my existence. Giving Emme the confidence to stare smilingly at herself in the mirror, telling herself that the little bump on the side of her nose just gives her that much more character.
Then my lingering adolescent self-consciousness, more menacing than the meanest middle school bully, suggests Craig and I start saving for Emme’s future nose job.